Cedric X. Bryant by Cedric X. Bryant

This article was originally published in the U.S. News and World Report on June 25, 2020.


Struggling With Pandemic Fatigue?

Becoming complacent with physical distancing and mask wearing drives high risk behavior. Try these tips to stay the course.

By Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D.

THERE ARE COUNTLESS reasons why people are getting tired of the COVID-19 guidelines. At the outset, people were largely following the governmental recommendations. A few months in, many people are struggling to stay compliant.

For some, it’s simply a matter of being lonely, bored or emotionally exhausted. For others, quarantine fatigue is related to financial hardships stemming from unemployment or reduced employment. And for those who are homeschooling, working from home and trying to juggle a busy household, stress and physical exhaustion may be the primary issues.

Unfortunately, the loosening of physical distancing, no matter the cause, could have an undesirable impact on the progress already made in trying to flatten the curve. Therefore, it is important that we all find the motivation and focus to stay the course.

How to Stay the Course

Here are some tips for battling quarantine fatigue and waning self-discipline through lifestyle change.

  • Try a new type of exercise. This can be particularly helpful if it's a mindful activity like yoga or tai chi. Other exercises, like walking or cycling, can become more mindful if you focus on the repetitive, rhythmic nature of the movement. The key is stay in the moment and think about how your body is moving through space.
  • Try new recipes and make cooking a healthy routine. People have been cooking more now than ever before. Take advantage by preparing healthier meals and creating a fun daily activity for you and your family at meal times.
  • Start meditating or deep breathing. Regular meditation can reduce stress levels. There’s no need to dive headlong into a comprehensive transcendental meditation practice. Instead, start with short bouts of meditation, prayer or controlled breathing, which can be very calming and provide a much-needed respite from the stress all around us.
  • Remember how you relaxed pre-pandemic. Anything you find relaxing and calming can be very helpful, whether that’s reading, cooking, gardening, bird watching or listening to music. The point is to avoid getting so caught up in and hyper-focused on the stress that you forget how you used to relax.
  • Set a sleep schedule. Many people are going to bed later and later as the pandemic progresses and their normal routines continue to be disrupted. Others are napping in the afternoon, either out of boredom or genuine fatigue. It’s important for your overall health to stick to a normal sleep schedule as much as possible, as both too much and too little sleep can be harmful.

Many of these tips are about establishing a routine. Lack of normalcy can be very mentally taxing. So, create a routine that gives structure to your day. Gather the kids to make dinner at a certain time each day. Go for a walk through the neighborhood in the morning and evening. Perform some in-home exercise each afternoon. It can be tough to stick to a routine when the world around you feels so unfamiliar, but even a loose schedule can be very helpful.

Finally, try to remain mindful of your physical and mental health. Follow a balanced diet. Exercise regularly. Avoid drinking too much alcohol. Manage your stress levels. And remember, this will pass.

In the meantime, stay connected with friends and loved ones as much as possible, and remember that we’re all in this together, even as we practice physical distancing.


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